2023 Nitro Revival Honorees



IRWINDALE, Calif. - "Big Jim" Dunn, "Watchdog" Tommy Allen, Dave Kempton, Art Carr, Bruce McDowell, Henry Velasco and the Cal-Rods Car Club will be center stage at Irwindale Dragstrip Nov. 4-5 when Nitro Revival celebrates the 2023 recipients of its Greater San Gabriel Valley Racers Recognition Awards. With a comfortable mix of color, cackle and conversation, Nitro Revival has become THE destination event for those who grew up in drag racing's Golden Age - or wish they had.

Produced this year for the sixth time by the team led by former NHRA Vice-President of Competition Steve Gibbs and his daughter Cindy, Nitro Revival provides members of the American car culture, regardless of age, a glimpse into a bygone era when cars had as much personality as the people who drove them. It also provides an opportunity to interact or reconnect with the men and women behind the remarkable vehicles that gave drag racing a personality unlike any other in motorsports.



Jim Dunn's competitive resume spans 70 years. The former fireman started at Santa Ana Dragstrip in 1953 in a Volkswagen-bodied altered powered by a nitro-burning Lincoln flathead V-8. Voted No. 27 among the top 50 racers in NHRA's first 50 years, he first distinguished himself as a driver, then as a Funny Car owner and crew chief who remains active today with Alex Laughlin behind the wheel. After winning Top Fuel at the 1969 Bakersfield March Meet, he switched to Funny Cars and won the same race in 1971 and 1980. Star of the movie "Funny Car Summer," he is the only driver to win a NHRA national event in a rear-engine Funny Car (the 1972 Supernationals at Ontario, Calif.). He won his last race as a driver in 1981 when he prevailed in the World Finals at OCIR but, as a car owner, he continued to win with drivers like son Mike, Kenji Okazaki and Frank Pedregon.




Tommy Allen distinguished himself and got his nickname not so much by winning as by keeping others from doing so. In the 1960s, a bonus fund was established for any driver who won three consecutive SoCal Top Fuel shows. It seemed that whenever a driver won two-in-a-row, Allen was there to deny No. 3, prompting the late Bernie Partridge to dub him "the watchdog" of the bonus fund. In 1966, He became the first driver to set the NHRA national record at a speed higher than 201 mph. He ran 212.76 mph at Carlsbad and improved that to 213.76 later at Irwindale. Although he started his career in a D-gasser, he is best remembered as the driver of the "Soapy Sales" fuel dragster for Larry Huff and for his 1970 AHRA Finals win over Preston Davis at Beeline Dragway in Phoenix while driving for Byron Blair



Dave Kempton effectively worked both sides of the street in drag racing. He was a tech official at San Gabriel Dragstrip until it closed in 1963 but, whenever possible, was behind the wheel of a long line of Stock and Super Stock vehicles including a 1964 Plymouth dubbed "Kempton's Shaker," and, at one time, a factory-backed American Motors AMX. He was one of the first drivers to win the two biggest NHRA events of the era, the Winternationals, in which he raised the Jr. Stock trophy in 1965, and the U.S. Nationals, in which he prevailed the following year in Stock Eliminator. He served as Tech Director for several years at the original Irwindale Raceway.




For more than 60 years, the name Art Carr has been synonymous with high performance automatic transmissions and torque converters. In fact, as the 90-year-old owner of California Performance Transmissions in Huntington Beach, he still functions as the "transmission magician." Although he opened his first transmission shop in 1960, Carr was a racer long before that. He raced for the first time at Pomona in 1953 and was a regular at the old Irwindale Raceway where he drove gassers, Funny Cars and dragsters including the Kohler Brothers "King Kong" Anglia. He also drove Dee Keaton's Mercury Cougar Funny Car to 208 mph before an engine explosion and fire sent him to the sidelines where he started building transmissions for "Dyno Don" Nicholson, "Jungle Jim" Liberman, Jack Chrisman and others.




Bruce McDowell competed at the original San Gabriel and Irwindale strips prior to becoming an established star of the American Sand Racing Association. The Chula Vista native won the 1981 ASRA Alcohol Funny Car Championship after first making a name for himself with a 785-pound sand dragster called "Double Trouble" powered by a pair of VW engines. After returning to racing on solid ground, McDowell won six NHRA national events in five years in the Top Alcohol Dragster class and was runner-up in three others. In 1984, he won the Winternationals, Southern Nationals at Mile-High Nationals. In fact, he was a finalist at the Denver race three straight years, winning again in 1986. His last win, at Seattle, came at the expense of the late Blaine Johnson, whom he beat in the final round.



Henry Velasco hasn't always known everything there is to know about crankshafts. As one might expect, there was no course in that subject at Bellflower High School but, as soon as he graduated, Velasco went to work at Harold Miller's engine shop where he began to develop the skills that would establish him as the "go to guy" for quality crankshafts, one of which current resides at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. In 1971, he opened Velasco Crankshaft Services in Downey and started manufacturing affordable billet crankshafts for racers, street rodders and others. All the while, he remained active in racing. He was partners in the Dunn-Merritt-Velasco Chevy-powered 1948 Fiat Topolino Jim Dunn drove to AA/Altered class wins at the 1963 and 1964 Winternationals as well as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Top Fuel dragster driven by Dave Uyehara and, a perhaps little-known fact, he was one of the early crew chiefs for John Force.




Founded in 1954 at Baldwin Park High School, one of 14 clubs in operation at that time, the Cal-Rods Car Club is the lone survivor. Now based in La Verne, it may be more important to the Southern California car culture today than ever before. Cal-Rod members serve as volunteers at the Grand National Roadster Show held each January at the LA County Fairplex, organize numerous fund raising events for charity, and have assisted in orchestrating tours of private car collections, shops, manufacturing facilities and museums that are of interest to car enthusiasts. Originally founded by BPHS student Don Scurti at the encouragement of school advisor Clyde Gorsuch, the Cal-Rods today follow the lead of president Jim Clark.